Friday, 12 July 2013

The Scream of Angels Inspiration

I thought it might be interesting, now I've finished the first draft of The Scream of Angels to show you the world I've been living in for the past few months. The world of turn of the century Paris and all the delights that go with it.

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (Theatre of the Big Puppet)

Grand Guignol was set up in 1894 and was a hugely successful venture. It featured sensational, one act horror plays, sex farce and dark dramas but it was the horror which made it so popular. The theatre had been a chapel in its former life and when you went to watch something there, you sat amongst the Gothic architecture and confessional boxes. Plays such as "The Laboratory of Hallucinations, The Torture Garden were all hugely popular.
The theatre features heavily in the story and is pivotal to the plot.
Cabaret Du Neant
The obsession with death and all things morbid wasn't only the domain of Victorian London. Parisians were also fascinated by death. There were several cafes or cabarets during the time which traded on that interest. One such was the Cabaret Du Neant. You were served your drinks on coffins by croque morts (pallbearers) before being subjected to horrific magic lantern shows in gloomy caverns.
There were other such cafes in Paris. such as Café de'lenfer (shown below) with its trademark demon's mouth doorway.
Pere Lachaise

Copyright Alastair Wiper
Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris and was built in 1804 in response to the ever mounting number of bodies bursting out from the smaller parish cemeteries in the city centre. The elegant tree lined avenues and undulating paths make it more like a park than a graveyard. Of course most parks don't have enormous tombs in them.
Most of the capital cities of Europe built these enormous burial grounds in the hope they would be able to accommodate everyone.
Nowadays getting buried in Pere Lachaise is difficult although if you die in Paris, or are a resident you are eligible. It just depends how long you want to wait as the waiting list is very long.

Many notable people have been buried there. Jim Morrison, Moliere, Chopin and Oscar Wilde are some of the famous people buried there.
When setting a book in Paris during the Belle Epoque, it's impossible to ignore the famous Moulin Rouge or Montmatre. The area was, and still is, a haven for artists and thinkers and of course drinkers and those in search of the company of a mademoiselle! The district had a seedy underbelly though and crime was a problem, particularly violent crime.
Paris Morgue
The Paris Morgue was a huge tourist attraction and hundreds would gather to view the days "catch" I say that because the corpses were those found in the Seine (called macchabees by the Parisians) The more gruesome the corpses, the longer they left them for viewing because they were the most popular. It started out as a method of identifying the bodies but became something for perverse voyeuristic pleasure.
There is a story of the pathologist at the morgue who became so obsessed with one such corpse that he made a plaster cast death mask of her face. She was known as L'Inconnue de la Seine (unknown woman of the Seine)
It's just a brief glimpse into the world of The Scream of Angels but I hope it's given you a bit of a flavour for what is to follow...